Jul 31, 2012

How I Plan My School Year


Homeschool planning... for some people the words make them break out in hives, for others just the thought is nectar from heaven to feed their souls. I personally love homeschool planning because I love planning. Lists, schedules, organization, these things not only delight my very bones, they are also an essential requirement. Without a to do list and a plan, I am wont to wake up in the morning and ask myself, "What do I need to do today?" look around and think, "Hmmm. Nothing? Okay then. Let's play!!!" And this, while pleasant for me and the children, tends to frustrate my husband for some reason. So I learned early on in our homeschooling career that I needed to plan ahead.
Planning used to be an all-consuming, never-ending, frustrating thing for me. There were simply too many options, ideas, and directions to head. But after six or so years of homeschooling, I know how we tick and therefor, know much better how to plan.
I start planning for the new year before the old year is over. I do this because I love planning, but also because I need the time to sort through curriculum options. In these early stages of planning, I indulge in a lot of prayer, discussion with my husband, web-surfing, and asking questions of other homeschool moms. By the time we are wrapping up the old year, I have a good idea of what subjects I want to teach and what curriculum I want to use. This is not necessarily set in stone, but it gives me a good, solid direction in which to head as I move into stage two of my planning.
Stage two of planning is lists: I make lists of subjects I want the kids to learn and what I plan to use for each; I write lists of what I need to buy, what I need to make, and what I know I have stashed somewhere and need to find; I jot down lists of ideas, goals, and questions; I use Swagbucks, Pinterest, and my favorite blogs to gather lists of activities and experiments for subjects I want to fill out a little, like history, science and geography. I make book lists and check to see if they are available in our library.
My next step is to start pulling everything together into one cohesive plan. I divide all of our curriculum into thirds because our school year is divided into three terms. I make a table in Microsoft Word and sift the first third into weeks and days. I blogged about this in great detail a while back. Only now, I put all the kids into one big table and color-code them so I can see at a glance exactly what needs to be done and has yet to be done. Also, Pinterest has mostly taken the place of my Book of Lists files. I love Pinterest!
After I have my curriculum divided into daily work, I make a daily schedule. This is usually a casual thing... we do this in the morning and that in the afternoon. But this year, I have four kids in "real" school, all needing my help with many different things but able to do some things on their own. So I made a detailed daily schedule so they would know when I am available to them for a particular subject.
I wrote down everything each child needs to do, gave them 15 minutes per subject, marked which ones they needed my help with and then made a giant grid with little slips of paper to organize it all. I don't usually have to go to such drastic measures, but what with each child having their individual work, Kaytie and Nate joining up for some things, Daniel and Abbie joining up for some, and then everybody joining in others, I was getting confused. I also had to sort out who got the keyboard and the computer when, so that everyone gets a turn and no one can whine at me because they need one or the other but someone else is using it. Not that my children would act in such a fashion! Oh no!

The frog represents me. I used it to make sure I wasn't putting myself in two places at the same time.

After I had it all sorted, I made each of the kids a chart with their own schedule on it, using pictures because we are visual people. This chart will go in the front of their binders for them to refer to at will. As we get into our year and figure out our rhythm, this rigid schedule will relax quite a bit. They will know which subjects they can switch around without messing me up, which subjects they can do quickly and gain themselves some free time and which ones they need to work on keeping focused.
Now that this is all done, the last of my planning is easy. I have a list of things I need to print or copy and I will work on that in the next few weeks before school. When that is done, planning time is over and we will be ready to go!
So there you have it, Planning for the Penguins in Five Easy Steps! Come back tomorrow for a peek into our brand new school room!


Tonia said...

Love your big chart for planning! That's a very neat idea.

Charity Hawkins said...

I agree, it's nice to see it all laid out like that. Maybe you should wear the frog around on your shirt each day too, just for fun. :)


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