Sunday, August 5, 2012

Planning for the New School Year

I spent most of the summer looking for a new way to plan my school year after the total failure that happened in this years organization and completion.  Lets just say that out of the 8 years I have been homeschooling this past year was possibly the worst by far. We started off great, but by spring we were just getting the basics done...and that was just 3 days a week. Now in my defence lots happened this year that just weren't in my control. Life just happens and on a homestead that life can include animal, weather, and crop troubles and this past spring was full of all three. I have learned though, that while I can't prevent all school delays from happening, by being prepared, I can jump right back on the horse when things calm down.

I've always planned my school days in a traditional paper planner. I have 4 children so I would end up with 2 planners each holding 2 of the children's lessons. It worked OK for years, but I always knew there had to be a better system for our family. This summer I figured it out. In the paragraphs below I'll explain each section of my planner, where I got the sheets from, how I use them to fit our family needs, and the mistake I'm trying to fix by using that planning method. Now I'm saying that this way of planning will be right for you. Your family is not going to look like mine and your needs may not be my needs. I do hope however that you can take something away...even if it's just knowing that you have the freedom to plan in something other than a traditional planner!

My planner has gone from two 1/4" paper planners to being held in a 1 1/2" 3 ring binder. I wanted a sturdy binder that would hold up so I purchased one from Staples with reinforced seams.

At the front of my binder, I keep a years calendar where I can see quickly the verse of the month, activities and field trips planned, monthly goals, and memo's that have been posted for quick reference. You can print this calendar here. I do this so I can take the important things from each section that I wouldn't look at everyday and place them where I will see them. It saves me time from having to search through my entire notebook each day and keeps things better organized.

The next section in my planner is the daily checklist. I have each child's name listed with what subjects they study and a place to check off each day when they complete this study. This is just a quick and easy way for my husband and me to see what was accomplished each day and something for me to take to a child who may be struggling with completing their work to show them the pattern of their day. By seeing the child struggling to finish something each day I can take a closer look at what the root of problem is. Is that child just being lazy or are they struggling with that subject? I was able to print the checklist off here.

The next section in my planner is for my lesson plans. This is by far the largest section in my planner,but it holds lots of extras. This is the section that made me want to make my own planner. What I found was that I had some things that I was doing with each of my children everyday and some things that had to be done one on one. I was spending too much time flipping between planners trying to see what needed to be done with each child. I also found that I never had enough room to write down what I needed (worksheets, manipulative's, games, etc.) so I had to pull out each manual and see what I needed and then collect what I needed for that lesson.!

This year, I am using a weekly log form to write down one weeks worth of activities that we all do together. Because we are doing a unit study this year, this log gives me the space to help me list all the activities I want to accomplish each day. I also include Bible, phonics, writing, art, nature study, and a miscellaneous section.

Behind this page, I keep copies of any worksheets that are to be used that week. By having these already out and ready to go, I am saving myself much valued time. I will say that for us, not having the things I needed already together was the number one failure of this past school year. I could get the girls started, but I didn't have the time to gather what they needed or make copies. I can't tell you how many times we started the day only for me to get called out of the house to deal with a farm issue. If I had everything the girls needed already together, it would have been no big deal, they could have opened up my planner and gotten them out and continued on without me.

After my weekly log list, but in the same lesson plans section, I have separate planner pages for English and Math. I am using a modified page out of this unit planner for this. I write the child's name across the top and then use the 5 space going down for each day. Instead of having to write the names, days of the week and subject over and over, I filled out one page and made copies of each for each school week. After each page I again make copies of any worksheets I need that week and place it behind the main planning page.

The next section in my planning book is titled yearly goal. This is the first of the actual "planning" sections of my binder. I won't be using the following sections except when I am gathering thoughts and ideas for our year. I start with just a list of the goals I want to achieve throughout the year. I am using two forms for this and they can be found here and here.

I use the first one listed to write down my general ideas for all subjects. I don't try to put many details down, just brain storm. What subjects do I want them to focus on? What Bible lessons do I want them to learn? What character traits do I want them to study? Then I list any possible books I might want to use next to each thing.

The next page I have linked is for a more detailed yearly overview. I am only using this on the core subjects that I really want the girls to work on. I'm able to use this to list monthly goals, books and materials I will need, methods of teaching, and any thoughts I have that I want to remember.

After I have my yearly goals listed, I break it down into weekly objectives and place those in their own section. It is this section that I pull all the information for my weekly lesson plans from. I printed my objectives for weeks page from here. This lets me just get an idea of what I need to cover each week in order to complete my school year on time. Once these two sections are finished, it's easy to plan each weeks of school work.

Because we are doing a unit study this year, I created a section just for an overview of the unit study. Here, I simply list the facts and I am able to use this and actually type out most things before I print it. It saves me a lot of time by typing it and is very well laid out so it is easy to follow. It is here that I list materials (including books and videos, worksheets, websites, and supplies needed), field trips (with detailed instructions, cost, directions, etc.), labs, projects, and assignments all for that unit study. Now I do this before I do my weekly objective so that I can plug in these things in that list. That way when i do my weekly planning both core subjects and unit study items are all listed. I won't refer back to this unit study list again except for field trip information that I don't feel needs to be listed more than once.

After all of my planning sections , I have sections that hold information on records and general questions. There isn't much explanation needed for these so I'm just going to list them quickly along with where I got them.

Reading Log- with this I can keep track of what my kids are reading, completed date, and the number of pages.

Spelling and poetry list- I don't have a print out that I use here. I just take all of my children's spelling list and put them on one page. This way I can quickly review spelling with all of them and I don't have to pull my teachers book out for each child. I also put copies of the poems they are working on and place them in this section.

Grammar rules- Again, there is no print out, I just make a list of all the grammar rules my children will cover that year (the yearly planner helps me know what I will need to cover) and place them in their own section. I do this because it never fails that someone will have a question while I'm away from my teachers guide and this lets me just flip in my planner instead of getting up and grabbing my book.

The last two sections are for grading and school attendance. Simple, to the point, no explanation needed, but you can find them here and here.

I hope that this helps you as you plan your school year. I'm not saying it's the perfect way, or the only way, but this has worked well for our family this year. If I see something that isn't working, I'll update with how I changed it.

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