Planning James’s Homeschool Year

James is officially starting high school, and he plans to attend a college or university. His goal is to work in some aspect of video game design (e.g. programming, writing, artistic development). We agreed that we both need to become a lot more disciplined and structured. But neither of us is a “curriculum in a box” or a traditional “school at home” kind of person. We want to keep learning flexibly and creatively but with a lot more academic content and structure.

After a lot of floundering and a bit of planning, I’ve come up with a curriculum plan and organizational method that I think can work for us. I planned for a trimester (12 weeks). For each week I glued five pockets to a file folder. Each pocket is labeled by subject: Science, Math, English, History/Social Studies (includes Psychology, Sociology, etc.), and Art/Humanities/Film.


I jotted down weekly plans and assignments on index cards and placed them in the appropriate pockets. Usually a topic or theme is visible above the pocket.


James and I are both fairly visual, hands-on people, so I am hoping this folders-and-pockets thing will help keep us on track. I also wanted to be able to easily reschedule or switch around topics and assignments if needed.

folders 1

I taped all 12 folders to the doors in the playroom/schoolroom. By the way, the only reason I’m using trimesters instead of semesters is that I figured I’d run out of door space. 😀

General Outline for the First Trimester (12 Weeks):

I. Computer Programming and Video Game Design — He plans to teach himself, using free resources available online. His goal is to start, on his 15th birthday, developing an indie game to share with other gamers online.

II. Science — Watch and discuss Geology DVDs with his dad.

III. MathArithmetic/Pre-Algebra Review at Khan Academy. I’ll supplement this with activities and materials I find on Pinterest.

IV. English, Social Sciences & Humanities — I’m developing a curriculum of my own. We’re planning to focus mainly on Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Dystopian Literature. Literary and film picks are loosely grouped by topics and themes, and they are thematically linked to most of our social science and humanities topics — more or less — in the wibbly wobbly way my mind works. This is definitely a work in progress.

A. Week 1: Man or Machine? Sci fi as an expression of human fear of being usurped by technology and artificial intelligence causing confusion over personal identity.

  • Talk about Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov and the movie adaptation with Will Smith
  • The Terminator (“Sa-rah Con-ner …”)
  • “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss and the movie adaptation, A.I. Artificial Intelligence. (Such a sad movie! :-/)
  • Postmodernism in film, art, literature, philosophy, etc. — because it relates to this idea of humanity being usurped by technology
  • Begin looking at Post-World War II history, because it’s closely related to Post-Modernism
  • “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury (It has nothing to do with the week’s theme; I just want to read it with James.)

B. Week 2: Personal Identity and Free Will (It’s closely linked to last week’s topic)

  • “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick and the film adaptation. (Can you be held responsible for a crime you haven’t yet committed?)
  • Gattaca (Question of free will)
  • Memento (not sci fi) (How to we shape our personal identity if not through our memories?)
  • Philosophy of Personal Identity and Free Will

C. Weeks 3-4: Childhood’s End (Humans voluntarily submit to alien rule; it’s easier to accept the benign authority of a more intelligent race than to have self-determination. This relates closely to the topic of free will broached last week.)

  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The problem of compliance and obedience (Psychology and Sociology)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (the movie — the novel is great, too) and the famous psychology/sociology article “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” in which “normal” people got themselves admitted to psychiatric facilities and waited to see how long it would take doctors and other staff to notice. It looks at how dehumanizing such institutions, and “labeling” people, can be and how well-meaning professionals become complicit in such dehumanizing systems.

D. Weeks 5-6: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (In a post-apocalyptic dystopia, humans feel threatened by the “humanity” of androids they’ve created. This combines many of the themes we’ve been exploring)

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and its film adaptation, Blade Runner
  • Totalitarianism (History) and Dystopian Fiction

E. Week 7: Animal Farm and What Is Reality?

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell (Continuing the thread of totalitarianism and dystopia)
  • Symbolism and allegory (Because these literary devices are written all over Animal Farm)
  • The Matrix trilogy and Total Recall — What is reality? How can we know for sure?
  • Skepticism (Philosophy) — How do we know what’s real anyway?
  • Archetypes in literature, film, and other arts. (Because in The Matrix III, Neo is a “Christ figure,” sacrificing himself for humanity, and I was looking for a segue to discuss archetypes. 🙂
  • Carl Jung (Since we’re studying post-WW II history, I want to throw in the Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket — there’s a lot of Jungian psychology there.)

F. Week 8: The Giver by Lois Lowry (This is an excellent YA dystopian novel.)

G. Weeks 9-12: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I’m also putting together a language arts notebook for him, offering a comprehensive grammar review and weekly writing assignments.

V. History: Post-WW II History — I haven’t picked any resources yet.

VI. Foreign Language: He’ll stick with Rosetta Stone German for now.

VII. P.E.: AYSO Soccer

7 responses to “Planning James’s Homeschool Year

  1. OMG you are making me feel like a slacker. The stuff in one week of your humanities thing feels overwhelming! I totally get the “we need to be more disciplined” plus “we’re not very good at being disciplined” thing. That’s a work in progress with Freya and I, too.

    • You definitely shouldn’t feel like a slacker. 🙂 Most of this is just stuff I pulled off the top of my head based on all the things I discussed (or meant to discuss) with Sarah over the years. And we have yet to see whether I’ll break with tradition and actually follow through with my plans. Hah! Thanks for the boomerang suggestion. I’ll try to track those down.

  2. BTW, There are old Bravewriter Boomerangs for Animal Farm, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451 if you’d like someone else to do the grammar and thought provoking questions 🙂

  3. You make homeschooling seem so interesting! Your kids are certainly very lucky – I particularly envy the humanities outline! I’m sure Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? will be great to discuss.

    • Thanks, Lucy! I’ve always said our homeschool looks much better on paper than IRL. Hah! I have never read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (yet), but I have a feeling it will be great and full of fodder for discussion. I am also excited about Childhood’s End. My dad incited me to read it when I was still in my teens, and the impression it made has really stuck with me.

  4. I love the pocket idea! And wow–that is a lot of books to read in a week! I wish I had that much time to read!!

    I am finding that as my girls get older, the things they really want to know they have to be willing to find on their own to some extent!

    • Well, we’re definitely not going to read all these books in one week. 🙂 And many of the titles I listed are actually short stories.

      It’s wonderful when kids start doing most of their learning on their own. And your girls are awesome!

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