Writing Lesson Plans for the Year, Semester, and Quarter

Writing Lesson Plans for the Year, Semester, and QuarterI’m one of those strange people who loves to plan things. I really love checklists and calendars and all things color coded. As a homeschool mom, I love sitting down each summer to write out our lesson plans for the year. Yep, I plan for the entire year! It’s great. I sit down for a few hours over 2-3 days, and I end up with a beautiful road map for our upcoming year.

If you don’t share my love for lesson plans, don’t worry. All is not lost. It is possible to write lesson plans for your family and still stay sane. I’m going to show you how to write your lesson plans for the year, a quarter, a month, a week or a day. And this method will work if you use a boxed curriculum or if you like to pull your own resources together.

Lesson planning does not have to be stressful or a joy stealer. You just need a method and a little time to get the work done!

Start with the End in Mind

Successful lesson planning begins with having a clear view of the big picture and where you want to end up at the end of the year. The best way to do this is to set clear goals for your homeschool as a whole and for each student individually.

When I say clear goals I mean something more specific than finish this math textbook by the end of our school year. That’s a great goal, but it is not the most helpful when trying to create your plan for the year. I like to create SMART goals before I start writing out my lesson plans.

A SMART goal is

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Setting SMART goals allows to you tailor your lesson plans to each subject and to each student. Plus SMART goals give you a way to measure progress throughout the year.

Let’s go back to that math example. Instead of saying that you want to finish the textbook by the end of the year, get really specific about what you want your child to learn. If you have a young elementary student, maybe you want to be sure that they know all the addition and subtraction math facts for 0-20. That’s a very specific goal that is easy to measure progress for; it’s something that is absolutely doable and realistic for your child. You get to choose when you want to have this done so that you have an end in mind.

The great thing about setting SMART goals is that you will have a very clear roadmap for your year and you’ll be able to adjust your plans as needed. If you child masters those facts by Christmas, set a new SMART goal and keep moving forward!

The number of SMART goals will depend on the number of subjects that you want to cover for the year and how many students you have in your homeschool for that year. If you are planning to teach Reading, Writing, Math, History and Science then you would have 5 SMART goals per child. And it’s okay if the goal is the same for each child. That often happens for us for things like history, nature study and science.

Keep in mind that your SMART goals should focus on where you want to end up at the end of the year or how ever long you are planning for. You want the goals to be specific but that don’t need to be extremely detailed (that will come later during your lesson plan writing).
In my homeschool our main subjects are bible, math, reading/spelling, history, geography, science, and nature study.

Download and Print the Checklist for This Course

planning school year

Example SMART goals for the year

Bible: We want to read through the Old Testament as a family using the list from Penny Gardner by the end of our school year. Each boy will learn about 3 people from the Bible and be able to narrate their story by the end of term. Memorize 12 verses.

Math: Learn math facts for addition and subtraction 1-20 by the end of the school year (1st grader). Complete 9 units of math curriculum by the end of the year at a pace of 3 units per term (3rd grader).

History: Study ancient history broken up into ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and ancient Rome by the end of the year. Cover one ancient society per term.

Science: Study earth and space science broken down into space, earth, and weather. Cover one topic per term.

Nature Study: Be able to identify by sight and sound 6 of our local birds. Make weekly entries into nature journals.

Geography: Be able to label out north, south, east, and west on a compass and map. Be able to draw a blob map of all 7 continents and correctly label all continents, oceans, the equator, tropic of cancer, tropic of capricorn, circle and antarctic circle by the end of the 3rd term.

Getting Down to Work

Once you have all your SMART goals written down for your children, it’s time to get to work. How much time you spend on this step will depend on how far ahead you want plan. Planning for a week or month will take less time than planning for the year.

You are going to take all of your SMART goals and match them up with your curriculum choices. Sit down with your goals for science and all of your science materials. Match up materials that will help you achieve each goal and write down those book titles, chapter pages, video links, etc. Do the same for history, nature study, language arts, and any other academic subjects.

I like to start with an overview for the year of what I want to cover for each subject then I break that down further into quarters and then weeks. The idea is to create a roadmap that will help you meet all the goals that you’ve created for the year.

You don’t have to write out every single lesson number and topic on your lesson plans if that’s not your style. You want your plans to be firm enough to keep you on track but flexible enough that you can adjust and change as life happens.

For example Week 1 could be broken down like this.

Monday

  • Bible: Read Genesis 1-2, review memory verses
  • Reading: lesson 1 and 15 minutes of independent reading
  • Spelling: lesson 3
  • Math: Unit 1, Lesson 4 and review flash cards
  • History: ancient Egypt — the pyramids. Read book about how pyramids were made. Build a pyramid with blocks, make a mummy, and do notebooking page about reading.

Tuesday

  • Bible: Read Genesis 3, review memory verses
  • Reading: lesson 2 and 15 minute of independent reading
  • Spelling: continue lesson 3
  • Math: Unit 1, Lesson 5 and review flash cards
  • Geography: trace world map and label continents and practice blob map

Wednesday

  • Bible: Read Genesis 6-7, review memory verses
  • Reading: Lesson 3 and 15 minutes of independent reading
  • Spelling: Lesson 4
  • Math: Unit 1 Lesson 6 and review flash cards
  • Science: Space – The Sun, read book on the sun, watch Magic School Bus episode on the solar system, notebooking page

Thursday

  • Bible: Read Genesis 11, review memory verses
  • Reading: Lesson 4 and 15 minutes of independent reading
  • Spelling: continue Lesson 4
  • Math: speed drill and review flash cards
  • Nature Study: nature walk, add entry to nature journal, read chapter in Burgess Bird Book

Friday

  • Bible: review memory verses
  • Reading: 15 minutes of independent reading
  • Math: test 1
  • Field trip to the planetarium

For us that means that I set a goal of learning our math facts by the end of the year. Then I pull out our curriculum and set goals for moving through each lesson. My goal is to over 2-3 units each quarter so I write that out on my lesson plans. We typically cover one lesson each day that we work on math, so I pencil those lessons in as well.

When we don’t cover something on a day that I planned (and that happens often), I don’t worry about it. We just keep moving through our lessons and I either leave the lesson plans alone or update my record with what we actually did.

What Supplies Do You Need?

When I first started doing lesson plans like this, I used pencil and paper. It was easier for me to erase and move things around that way. I would write out weekly lesson plans for the entire year. I didn’t write specific dates on my weekly plans. I’d just label them Week 1, Week 2, etc.

Now I have an electronic homeschool planner that I type my plans into each year. The document is editable, and I just fill it out and save it on my computer. I pull it up each week, make the necessary changes, and gather supplies.

When I want to get really crazy, I also print, copy, or separate all the supplies that I need for each lesson. I use file folders and a plastic storage bin to keep all my weekly papers separate and organized. At the beginning of each week I pull out the folder and all the worksheets, notebooking pages, books, art supplies, etc are right there.

Are you still with me? Here’s what this planning looks like in action!

LaToya Edwards

About the Author

LaToya Edwards is a recovering perfectionist and control freak that loves old movies, good books and strawberry Hagen Daas ice cream. She traded in a law degree to homeschool her children and be home full-time to serve her family. Through trials of divorce, depression, death and more she has learned how to find joy in motherhood and God’s purpose and plan in broken circumstances. As a certified life coach it is LaToya’s desire to encourage and equip other women to do the same.