Thursday, October 1, 2020

Curriculum Mapping

So you've decided to go eclectic for your homeschool curriculum (this is what we use), you've chosen the pieces that will work well for your family, you pulled the trigger and purchased it, and now you've got a nice stack of curriculum sitting there, ready to be used.

So, now what?

This is where curriculum mapping comes in. Even if you choose an all-in-one package, you'll still want to take some time and get a sense of how your year is laid out. 

Some of the curriculum we use is organized into weeks or units. Literature, spelling, and some of our supplemental materials are nicely divided into 36 weeks, usually with four lessons a week. Our writing program is divided into units, and there is a 2 or 3 week plan for each unit. But our science, social studies, and math programs are programs that are divided into chapters of uneven lengths. 

Fortunately, I've had a few years to figure this out, and I had to spend a lot of time curriculum mapping when I was a public school teacher, so I've developed a way to plot out the curriculum for the year.

First, look at the number of "lessons" in each of the subjects you need to map. For our math book, that's pretty easy. I count how many lessons I see in each chapter, add a day for review and a day for the test, and that's that. For science and social studies, it can get more complicated depending on the length of the lessons and adding in time for research, experiments, or other projects. 

Now you have a total number of lessons. 

I plan to do lessons four days a week for thirty-six weeks. That means I have 144 lesson days to work with. I take the number of lessons and the number of days and make them work. Sometimes it's really easy and it'll fit beautifully. Sometimes it won't. 

  • What lessons can be combined?
  • What lessons can be eliminated?
  • Is this a subject you feel you need to do daily, or can you do 2-3 days a week?
  • Are there lessons that can be stretched?
  • Can you build in days for review? Build in days for extension and supplement?
Once I've figured out how to make the lessons fit into 144 work days (remember, some days will be combined, and some days may not have a lesson in every subject), I divide those lessons into weeks and I plot them on our weekly map. I made a document that I print out and fill in. I fill it in in pencil, rather than on the computer, because after the first year, I remembered that things will inevitably need to be adjusted and it is MUCH easier to do that with an eraser.

Curriculum mapping can be a process that takes time. It usually takes me at LEAST a few hours per subject for each grade. When I first described this to a new homeschooler, she looked at me like I was insane and she had made the wrong choice. I admit, it can be overwhelming to start with. But there ARE a few benefits.

First, it allows me to really get to know the curriculum. When I'm looking at all the lessons, I'm getting a full overview of what I'll be covering over the next year. I won't have anything that takes me by surprise. I know that we'll be needing a protractor for chapter 4 in math, so I can plan ahead. If I know that we'll be covering the planets in science, I can start looking for books and DVDs and request them from the library.

Second, it lets me look at the year in a manageable way. If I've gone through the curriculum and mapped it out, I'm not wondering how on earth we'll finish the science book. We don't need to rush, because it's laid out to make sure that we cover everything I want to cover. 

Finally, putting in the effort at the beginning makes the school year planning incredibly simple. I look at the map for the coming week and put it right into my weekly planner and the girls daily agenda. Although I may need to take some time to prepare a certain lesson or an experiment, my weekly planning takes less than a half hour - total. No matter how busy a weekend or week may be, I can handle that. 

Curriculum mapping is a great way to start the homeschool year. The work you put in now will pay off in a big way and allow you to enjoy the school year along with your kids, knowing that you are right on track!

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