Curriculum and pacing are dance partners in the homeschooling experience who both fight for the lead. An earth science curriculum may seem perfect until a family realizes that it will take hours of preparation a week just to collect materials and prepare the experiments. A broad goal such as “Explore the natural world and other cultures.” could be completed once a month, once a week, or once a day, depending on the curriculum used or child’s interest if child-led. “Write in a variety of genres…” could include grammar, punctuation, and spelling instruction—or not. I’ve heard quoted that focused instruction, that is, time spent when your child is actively learning about a particular skill or topic related to your goals, be limited to the following: ½ to 2 hours a day for primary grades, 2-3 hours a day for intermediate grades, and 3-4 hours a day for secondary grades. These guidelines assume you are still available at other times to answer questions, provide support, read with your child, and so on for all the everyday learning that takes place interacting with the world.
With these suggestions and your homeschooling style in mind, pencil in next to each goal the amount of time you think you might spend on it. Your notes might say things like: fifteen minutes daily, once a week, incidental (when it comes up), a big unit over a few weeks then incidental, do during dinner table talk, through weekly art class, etc. Used curriculums galore are available on the web because families didn’t realize how much time they would take compared to how much time they wished to spend. If your goal covers a large area such as medieval history or third grade math skills, consider if you would be happy to take each topic as it comes and perhaps complete the study over a longer period at a time, or are there important topics in that goal you want to learn about first in case your family loses interest, or would you want to keep a particular pace and be finished by the end of a year? Pencil these thoughts in, too. Once you have some times penciled in, try to imagine a typical weekly schedule, keeping in mind all the usual classes, playgroups, and other obligations you regularly attend. Be realistic about when and where you will be using curriculums for focused instruction.
In the next post, I'll talk about selecting curriculum to go with your goals.